Monday, June 20, 2005

The Year of the Bat.

In the company of two of my sons, I saw Batman Begins this weekend. Both of them agree that it is the best of all Batmans so far.

Myself, I liked the comic-gothic Tim Burton Batman--great Danny Elfman score, for one; Jack Nicholson, sure; but I also liked Michael Keaton as Batman. A lot. Really, his portrayal is very much of a piece with Christian Bale's--I could see the two portraits sort of merging. What I like about a somewhat effaced Batman is that his heroic gesture is always somewhat compromised: he has no superpowers, only excellent equipment. His judgment and instincts about how to deploy the equipment are the only things he has going for him. I like a Batman where the restraint seems rooted in the personality.

This Batman also gives us a sort of renunciatory quality: the sense that, because of his restraint, his judgements, his instincts, and his secrecy, he is also somehow stunted, operating emotionally at a remove. This film explains the trauma (to get Freudian) that initiates the removal. It also gives that trauma a history. I loved the part of this film that has Bruce Wayne somewhere in the Himalayas (that's how I read it, anyway), abasing himself, then submitting to the quasi-spiritual discipline of the Shadow Brotherhood. Eerie connections with Kill Bill, featuring a similarly brutal discipline/disciplehood in the martial arts. What is it about the East? Once he comes back, all that zen seems to evaporate into tanks and body armor.

The last question the film raises for me is this: why do so many filmmakers want to take a crack at material like this?


  1. Mainly I think these directors do it for the cash. Who can turn down such a high-profile project like this? I think Burton and Nolan have a lot in common, at least from a studio perspective. Looking back, I think hiring Burton was a totally ballsy decision by the WB...he was really a nobody...He was this arty design-based director who had only done quirky comedy (PeeWee and Beetlejuice). He had never done action or giant set pieces or worked with people on the caliber of Nicholson. He was still a kid. The same goes for Nolan. He's made 3 arthouse movies and that's it, really. I think it's cool that they are letting different directors do their own interpretations of the Batman franchise (that makes the WB sound like altruistic patrons of the arts, I know, when they are just after a buck, but still). I always thought that Lucas should have done the same thing with the last three episodes--bring in a differerent guest director each time. Spike Lee, PT Anderson, Brian DePalma.

  2. I haven't yet seen the new Batman, but I heard this morning on NPR that based on the success of the movie, they are already planning sequels. No surprise, right, but what did surprise me is that they are planning to remake the previous films. Why? Certainly there are other stories to tell.

  3. I liked the movie, mostly. I thought it was dark enough and all and risked alienating the action crowd by not showing brightly lit fighting scenes. What impressed me most, I think, were the villians and the problem that fighting evil seems to present to the heros.



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